Where is the Limpopo Province?
Bordered by Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, Limpopo is South Africa’s most northern province. Previously referred to as South Africa’s Cinderella province, this region was previously often ignored by tourists. However, in recent times Limpopo has been rightfully recognised as an Awesome holiday destination.
Affectionately known as the Great North, the province is cut north to south by the main arterial N1 Highway, dividing the province almost in half as it connects the Zimbabwe border and the Gauteng economic powerhouse of South Africa. This allows for easy access to many of the awesome regions of the Limpopo province.
How Big is Limpopo Province?
The Limpopo province is the fifth largest province in South Africa taking up 10.2% of South Africa’s total land area. Named after the mighty Limpopo River, this ancient African kingdom is a land of myth and legend and home to the Venda and Ndebele peoples.
Incorporating this wonderful region in a South African itinerary and you’ll be rewarded with magnificent wildlife including the ‘Big 5’, brilliant birding, magnificent untamed bush, spectacular scenery and a wealth of historical and cultural treasures.
What to do in Limpopo Province
The Limpopo Province is an ideal self-drive holiday destination. Plot a road-trip and incorporate some of the natural wonders that this spectacular South African province offers. Blessed with an excellent road infrastructure and a large variety of accommodation options, makes planning for every budget in this province very rewarding.
There are many reasons to explore this magnificent region of South Africa, but its main attractions are its malaria-free game parks and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe. Regarded as Southern Africa’s first-ever kingdom; Mapungubwe is steeped in myth and legend.
Limpopo is renowned for its rich cultural heritage. Discover the Stone Age and Iron Age relics of Makapansgat Valley near Mokopane. Visit the Rain Queen, the hereditary female ruler of the Modjadji people, who is held to have the power to make rain. Travel to the north-east of Limpopo into the Venda region and get a glimpse of Lake Fundudzi and the deep, indigenous Sacred Forest which are particularly revered as ancestral sites.
The Waterberg in the west of the province is home to one of South Africa’s most popular and malaria-free big game destinations. The Marakele National Park and the privately owned Welgewonden Game Reserve offer excellent game viewing opportunities.
It’s not all bushveld though, the southern slopes of the far northern Soutpansberg mountains have a subtropical climate. Here you will discover lush farms growing macadamia nuts and avocados. Venture higher up you’ll discover pristine mountain scenery with gorges, waterfalls and hillsides, which are home to more than 550 species of trees. This unique ecosystem is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Limpopo is also the northern gateway to Kruger National Park. This drier region of the Kruger Park is less frequented by tourists. Making it an ideal destination for those that prefer the road less travelled.
The Great North offers the adventure traveller vast landscapes and the opportunity to explore this untamed terrain. Hire a 4×4, hike, or take a guided trip. There’s plenty of accommodation, awesome scenery, excellent big game, abundant birdlife, and splendid isolation.
Support the local communities by stopping and enjoying the many arts and crafts created by the local Venda and Tsonga peoples. Renowned for their pottery, woodcarvings, tapestries, paintings, basketwork and beadwork. Your support benefits the local communities and brings much needed revenue into their societies.
The Three National Parks of Limpopo
Kruger National Park
It must be at the top of the list for me, I really enjoy this region of the Kruger national Park. This is the most famous of South Africa’s game reserves. Many bush lovers will claim that the northern part of the park, in Limpopo, is its wildest and most diverse.
From Hoedspruit in the east of Limpopo to the Pafuri and Punda Maria camps in the north of the Kruger, this is spectacular bushveld country. From exquisite private lodges to the unending wilderness of the Kruger National Park there is accommodation and experiences for every budget.
The ‘Land of Giants’, ancient Boabab trees dominate the landscape the further you travel north, large herds of Elephant and Buffalo and the best birding region of Kruger Park. Welcome to paradise. You should take precautions against malaria when visiting this region.
Mapungubwe National Park
The Mapungubwe National Park is of significant cultural and historical importance. This is the first site settled in South Africa after the Bushmen. Located at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers, the terrain varies from a flat landscape with dramatic sandstone and conglomerate ridges and koppies to rugged mountainous terrain. The diverse vegetation, giant baobab and mashatu trees, riverine forest and associated plains provide an intriguing mix of habitat
Mapungubwe, which means ‘place of the stone of wisdom’, was the largest kingdom in the African sub-continent. Approximately 5000 people are believed to have lived around Mapungubwe Hill where their ‘sacred’ leader lived in seclusion from his people.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the country. Mapungubwe was once home to a prosperous African civilisation dating as far back as 1200AD. This once wealthy and thriving Iron Age kingdom traded as far afield as India, China and Egypt.
All Mapungubwe’s camps are accessible by normal sedan vehicles, but it is advisable to have a 4×4 or high clearance vehicle to ensure an enjoyable drive inside the park. There are also several eco-trails for which a 4×4 is required.
From November to March the beautiful Mopane Moth can be seen flying around, the large larvae of these moths are a delicacy and valuable food source in the region.
You may be lucky and on a game drive and find Black rhino, African Wild Dog, Cheetah, Brown Hyena or even a Pel’s fishing owl. You should take precautions against malaria when visiting this region of Limpopo.
Marakele National Park
Discover the highest peaks of the Waterberg rising above the catchment area of five rivers. Marakele is a very wild, dramatic park with rich vegetation, deep valleys, open grasslands and woodlands. The ‘Big Five’ are all here along with a host of other wildlife. You will also find Black Rhino, Sable, Tsessebe, Gemsbok and Red Hartebeest.
The park is accessible to all passenger vehicles, with the camp and tent sites on good roads. Also, approximately 80 km of roads within the park are accessible to all vehicles, the balance requiring a four-wheel drive vehicle. Marakele is home to the ‘Big 5’ various species of antelopes and over 250 species of birds including the largest colony of Cape Griffon Vultures in the world, estimated to be around 800 breeding pairs.
The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is one of South Africa’s top conservation areas, is malaria-free ‘Big Five’ country. Stay at the very affordable Marakele National Park or opt for the privately owned Welgewonden Game Reserve, and spot game, hundreds of birds, trees and plants, on guided game drives, horse rides or walks.
Welgevonden Game Reserve
The spectacular 36,000-hectare luxury private Welgevonden Game Reserve is in the malaria-free Waterberg District, of the Limpopo Province. With a choice of 21 privately owned game lodges offering an exclusive African Safari Experience.
Experience the African bushveld guided by professional rangers and trackers on day and night game drives. Learn more on the ground with guided walking safaris getting even closer to nature. Appreciate the fresh air and satisfy your appetite with delicious bush breakfasts and open firelit boma dinners. Enjoy the Awesome African night sky.
Welgevoden is derived from a Dutch word meaning ‘Well Found’. Once you enter this special reserve you will soon appreciate why. The spectacular scenery and unique habitat in this special reserve is home to 50 different animals and more than 300 bird species.
Apart from the ‘Big 5’ (Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino) this awesome reserve gives you the opportunity to sight rare and unusual species like Aardvark, Aardwolf, African Wild Cat, Brown Hyena and Caracal. Alongside an array of Antelope, Cheetah, Giraffe, Hippo and Crocodile.
Accommodation at Welgevoden is offered in a collection of exclusive private lodges. From self-catering camps to exclusive 5-star private camps, some designed for exclusive use only, others typically accommodating no more than a maximum of ten guests at any one time.
Whether you choose to stay, the professional staff at the various camps are on hand to ensure that your South African Safari experience is exclusive, rewarding and memorable.
Expect fine dining, world-class wines and superb service at the collection of Welgevonden lodges.
Getting to Welgevonden Game Reserve is easy. From O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg allow for around 4 hours or opt for an easy 45-minute flight from Johannesburg into one of the airstrips on the reserve.
View this video and get a taste of what awaits you at one of South Africa’s premier malaria-free game reserves.
If you are interested in the history of humankind, the Makapansgat and Zwartkrans Valleys needs to be on your holiday itinerary. Located northeast of Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus) this beautiful valley is home to many ancient caves. The caves have revealed not just numerous animal and plant fossils, but also hominid fossils that date back 3.3-million years.
Travel further to the north-east to the beautiful mountainous region which is designated as part of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Supporting a unique, rich biodiversity, this natural wilderness sustains approximately 580 species of trees and awesome birdlife.
There are many accommodation options available in and around the town of Louis Trichardt. Louis Trichardt is located at the foot of Songozwi, in the Soutpansberg mountain range. It is named after the Voortrekker leader Louis Trichardt.
Modjadji Cycad Reserve
Home to some of the oldest and biggest cycads on Earth, the reserve offers walks, game and a variety of bird and antelope species. The 530-hectare Modjadji Nature Reserve is located north-east of Tzaneen and when there’s no mist, you can gaze out high over the cycad forest to the distant Kruger National Park and the Lowveld beyond.
Polokwane, Limpopo’s capital city, in the centre of the province, is the commercial, administrative and agricultural hub of the region, characterised by wide streets, colourful flowering trees, shopping malls, offices and fast-flowing traffic on the way to and from the Zimbabwean border.
Formerly known as Warmbaths because of its natural hot springs, and known by the local Tswana people as ‘water that boils on its own’. This pleasant little town in the heart of the Waterberg, just over an hour’s drive from Gauteng, is now a popular health and wellness destination and holiday resort.
This quaint little town, 60km east of Polokwane on the road to Tzaneen, is one of those attractive arty-crafty villages off the beaten track that dot the South African landscape. It provides a good base for exploring the surrounding Magoebaskloof forests and valleys.
The pleasant small town of Modimolle (formerly Nylstroom) is flanked by the Nylsvlei Wetland and the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.
Nylsvlei Nature Reserve is best known as the largest floodplain in South Africa and is a RAMSAR wetland. Best known for its large numbers of waterbirds, Nylsvlei Nature Reserve is also an excellent bushveld birding destination within easy reach from Johannesburg
Wildlife Safari Checklist
- Comfortable walking boots or shoes and comfortable socks.
- Wear light coloured clothing (khaki) which is best to deter mosquitoes.
- Insect repellent
- Warm clothing (jersey / jacket for evenings and early mornings)
- Guide books (birding and mammal guide books will make your safari more rewarding, and help you to identify and learn about the surrounding fauna)
- Camera and lenses
Most of Limpopo province is a malaria-free zone and that includes many of the national parks and game reserves.
Currently only when visiting the far north and to the east, in the Kruger National Park, will you be within a malaria risk zone. If you intend visiting those regions, then you should check with your GP which anti-malarial medication they would recommend prior to your safari.
Precaution is the best solution, take sensible precautions to avoid been bitten. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours like blue and black. Wear lighter shades as that will help deter the mosquitoes and will also help you feel cooler by reflecting sunlight.
If you have a ceiling fan, use it, as the turbulence of the air keeps flying insects away. At sunset apply insect repellent, I would recommend purchasing a local product such as Tabard or Peaceful Sleep.
On Safari in South Africa
A successful safari requires knowledge, patience, luck and perseverance; all these ingredients will enrich your South African Safari Holiday. Good Luck and enjoy every minute of the natural world.
“An elephant’s tusks are never too heavy for it”African Proverb